Airbus, Europe’s largest aerospace multinational, is to pay a record £3bn in penalties after admitting it had paid huge bribes on an “endemic” basis to land contracts in 20 countries.
Anti-corruption investigators hailed the result as the largest ever corporate fine for bribery in the world after judges declared that the corruption was “grave, pervasive and pernicious”.
The planemaker agreed to pay the penalties on Friday after reaching settlements with investigators in the UK, France and the US to end inquiries that started four years ago.
In the high court in London, Dame Victoria Sharp, the President of the Queen’s Bench Division, approved the settlement struck with the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO).
She said: “The seriousness of the criminality in this case hardly needs to be spelled out. As is acknowledged on all sides, it was grave.”
She added that the scale of the wrongdoing demonstrated that bribery was “endemic in two core business areas within Airbus”.
Allison Clare, for the SFO, told the court the company had paid bribes in Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Taiwan and Ghana between 2011 and 2015.
Airbus, which admitted five counts of failing to prevent bribery, had used a network of secret agents to pay large-scale backhanders to officials in foreign countries to land high-value contracts.